Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Little bit of History -- Pharmaceutical and Personal

Quite a few people commented on the ring on my hand, which appeared for the Photo Hunt theme, Wrinkled recently. One even commented: "Are you a pharmacist? I should get one for my husband." Obviously he is one too.

I'm afraid it's a one-off, custom made, although not for me specifically and as you can see it features the Pharmacy symbol, an upper case R with the tail made into an x.

The Rx symbol, which traditionally has been part of a prescription and thus written by physicians, was adopted as a symbol of pharmacy long ago and although it has some varying explanations as to its origin one of the most commonly accepted one is that Rx is an abbreviation for the Latin word Recipe or "take thou," used before listing the ingredients of the prescription, with x probably standing for the variable as each was different.

While most prescriptions these days are written for commercially manufactured products, except for creams and ointments which pharmacists still mix or compound extemporaneously quite often , every prescription traditionally begins with the Rx symbol. To complete the Latin lesson for a prescription, Mitte or M appears before the number to dispense, which stands for Send and finally Sig, an abbreviation for Signa which means mark or label the prescribed item with the following directions which still are still often written with Latin abbreviations on the prescription.

But back to the ring, which consists of a large flat oval of black onyx with the Rx symbol inlaid in gold which is held in a gold setting. The ring belonged to a very dear friend, one of the first people I met when I came to Canada. She was a professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy where I worked as a lowly lab instructor for a time and she always wore it on her hand. Everyone admired the ring greatly and it held a very special meaning for her. Her specialty was Manufacturing pharmacy which she had taught for some years and when she was doing graduate studies in Eastern Canada she came into contact with the owner of a pharmaceutical manufacturing company Charles E Frosst* and did some consulting work for him. Unpaid, of course, but he did show his gratitude by having this ring made and presenting it to her.

Sadly my friend died of a brain tumour in 1986 at the age of 62 and her husband gave me this ring to remember her by and since I was a pharmacist too. I wear it often, although not all the time, since it is large and occludes the skin from air and traps moisture underneath so sometimes causes a rash. But I love it and I always think of her when I wear it, for she was like the older sister I never had.

The ring does not have a very long history, from the early to mid fifties I would say, although I think it is an interesting one. I hope I can find some pharmacy person to pass it on to who might appreciate it both for its interesting history and because it is a very special ring which portrays the symbol of our profession.

Just for completeness, a little about Charles E Frosst* who was actually born in the USA but came to Canada to live, however don't feel obliged to read it.

*When Charles E. Frosst & Co. was founded in 1899, the Canadian pharmaceutical industry was still in its infancy. From the start, Charles E. Frosst and his four associates made it clear that their company was an innovator, rapidly introducing new products such as the famous numbered analgesics known as 217® and 222® — products that are still used in Canada. During the 1920s, the company became family-owned and, as it grew, it consolidated its reputation for innovation. During the mid-forties, Charles E. Frosst pioneered nuclear medicine in Canada by developing the country's first radioactive pharmaceutical products, for sale here and abroad. In 1965, Charles E. Frosst & Co. joined another, even more venerable pharmaceutical dynasty, Merck & Co., Inc. of New Jersey or Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) as it is known outside of North America.


16 comments:

leslie said...

Fascinating history of your ring and good to remember old Mr. Frosst.

Rositta said...

Great story and a nice way to remember someone special. I'm sure you will find someone to pass it on to..ciao

Dragonstar said...

How lovely to know a bit about this very special ring. Thanks for telling us this part of your history.

Thanks as well for the potted history of Canadian pharmaceuticals. I didn't know any of this.

Nunyaa said...

The R ring different but am fascinated muchly by not only how you came to have it, but the origins of the R itself. I like the ring on your ring finger :)

CherryPie said...

What a lovely story, no wonder you like the ring so much :-)

Crushed said...

Radiocative medicine?

What is that, if you don't mind my asking?

I know that when Radium was discovered, some advocated it as a kind of universal panacea.

Which is amusing, if scary.

jmb said...

Thanks Leslie, it is very special to me and Frosst was a big name in Canadian pharmacy for many years.

I hope so Rositta.

Thanks Dragonstar, I think it is interesting.

Nunyaa, that ring you are speaking about is interesting too as it is a locally made one interpreting a sluice box ring.

I don't own much that has a history Cherrypie, having moved around, but this is special because of its story and because it belonged to my dear friend.

Trust you to ask that Crushed so I have now put into the post two links you can follow for a brief description of each. These compounds are mostly used in imaging (similar to Xray imaging) for diagnosis but also in the treatment of some cancers.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

ellen b. said...

thanks for explaining and giving the history of the ring. After I asked if you were a pharmacist duh, I read your side bar and there in plain english you talk about being retired from hospital pharmacy. My husband is a pharmacist and works for a biotec firm that develops and markets drugs here in the US and around the world. I might have to start looking around for a special ring for him. Have a great week...

Carver said...

That's very interesting to read about your ring JMB and made more special by the fact that it was your friend's ring.

I also found the information about Chales E. Frosst interesting. One of my daughter's closest friends in high school's father was a nuclear pharmacist. I barely knew what that meant but when I had a sentinel node biopsy and went to the nuclear medicine hospital prior to surgery, and also since I get my PET scans in the nuclear medicine hospital, I have become a little bit more knowledgeable about it (not much but a little bit). For that reason it's interesting to read about someone pioneering nuclear medicine in Canada.

Ian Lidster said...

Enchanting tale of the ring and its meaning to you. It may not be terribly old, as you suggest, but it is filled with positive energy for you, no doubt.
Thank you for the information on the whole Rx thing, too.

Sarabeth said...

Thanks for sharing the story of the ring and Mr. Frosst. I've been an absent commenter lately, and for that I apologize. I do read, though.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Interesting about the ring and the symbol. The personal aspect makes it more interesting.

Just goes to show you learn something new every day if you pay attention, and a good thing it is too.

mutleythedog said...

Blimey! You are very clever...

Tucker the Trucker said...

I saw a farmer suitical ring once.

My friend Billy Bob said Aliens done it, but Jebedee Crab who has the cabin up on theb hill, he said drunken pranksters did it.

jams o donnell said...

I must admit I never noticed the ring as such. But what a wonderful and unique item of jewellery.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Fascinating post, jmb.